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Importing the Character - My Character Design Process for Puppet, Bone Rig 2D Animation in Reallusion's Cartoon Animator (Part 3)

My character in CA5's character composer showing problems with the bone structure.
Importing my character into
CA5 for the first time.

In part three of my series where I document the process of creating my very first, complete G3-360, SVG vector based character for Cartoon Animator 5 using Inkscape I get to the moment of truth - importing the character into CA5 for the very first time.

In previous posts I showed how I came up with the character design and created the base character image, and how I created the individual main sprites and created the joints ready for rigging.

Moving on...

Creating an Outfit and Additional Face Sprites

I mentioned previously that I wasn't just creating a female character in a bikini for the eye catching attention. I always planned to give her an outfit that was smart business attire. 

Sketch of a women wearing a business suit standing next to a male character.
My reference image for the
character's business outfit.
Right on the very next page of my sketchbook I drew what could easily be the same character in a smart business orientated outfit. So I took this sketch, overlaid it onto my character design and set about 'inking' that in.

All that was left to do was to break up my characters fingers into their individual joint sprite segments and then create all the different eye and mouth sprites. I used one of Reallusion's existing characters as a reference for the various eye and mouth expressions required.

While you can make more eye sprites the bare minimum you need for a character is six per eye. These are easy enough to make once you've created your 'normal' eye as you just duplicate this and adjust the vector lines into whatever expression you need.

You also need to remember that whenever an eye expression has the eye open you need to make an eye white mask so the Iris will work with CA5's Face Puppet system i.e. the iris will move around inside the eye white that can be seen.

My character in her business outfit and her additional eye, mouth, and finger sprites.
My character in her business outfit and
her additional eye, mouth, and finger sprites.
For the mouth the minimum number of sprites required is 15 (14 if you don't include the duplicate 'normal' used by the lip sync system in the count).

To save myself some time I used the mouths from the template as the interior of my character's mouth and just added the lips to each one. Again most of the work was just duplicating the lips and adjusting the vector lines to match the expression.

Once all the sprites were done I made sure everything was in position and I set about transferring all my sprites into the Inkscape template.

Note: Technically they were already in the template because I've been working in the Inkscape template the whole time. I just switched off all the template folders and made my own.

This step involved transferring all the sprites from my working folders to the actual template folders and then deleting all my work folders. I did this in a new version of the document so I could retain the working folders version should I need them again).

The final step was to align the template bone points with my character's joints and face sprites.

Importing the Character into Cartoon Animator for the First Time

I don't think anyone expects their first attempt at importing a custom character into Cartoon Animator to work on the first try (regardless of if it's an SVG or PSD character). There's bound to be unforeseen issues. So I dragged my template file onto Cartoon Animator's stage and held my breath...

This is what I was greeted with on first importing my character. An error message about raster images, which I gather relates to the eyes since they are missing. The notepad document is what came up when I click the Warning Log Link.
This is what I was greeted with on first importing my character. An error message about
raster images, which I gather relates to the eyes since they are missing. The notepad document
is what came up when I click the Warning Log Link.

Initially it didn't seem too bad for a first attempt. The eyes were missing, and I suspect they were the obvious source of the raster graphics issue - even though there are no raster objects in my SVG file.

An obvious issue of my making was the layering problem with the character's shoulders. I designed the character's sleeves to go behind the jacket, which is part of the hip sprite. Unfortunately I didn't make anything to cover the skin colored joints for when the character isn't wearing a jacket. This is an easy fix though.

Discovering More Problems in the Composer

Taking the character into Composer Mode, in addition to discovering none of the eye sprites had been imported, I immediately saw a weird issue with the positioning of both my hand bones, neither of which were lined up with the placement in my document.

Some of the issues encountered on my first import of my character into CA5.
Composite graphic showing the key issues facing my character upon
further investigation in Composer mode.

If I used the bone editor to align the hands where they should be the finger bones do not line up with my sprites - especially on the character's left hand.

The final major issue I encountered was that my mouth sprites have all been imported as additional mouth sprites with names they don't have in my file. I did not change the folder names for any of these so I'm not sure why this happened? Not a single one is placed in one of the required mouth sprite spots.

In addition, those mouths that are open, so you can see the mouth interior, the coloring of said interior has reverted back to black and white - with the teeth being black for some reason? I have no idea why?

Can I Fix All These Issues?

As I write this, I'm sure I probably can, but I can't say for certain. I'd really like to know what caused them so I can completely avoid these problems on my next character.

For now I'm going to leave you in suspense. I'll let you know how I fixed everything and finished the character in the fourth, and what I expect will be the final, installment of documenting the creation of this character.

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